Under normal circumstances, State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a regular presence on the streets of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. The longtime LES Assemblyman is legendary for keeping close ties to his constituents and to the community organizations that serve them. It goes without saying that circumstances for Silver are anything but normal these days. So things were a bit tense yesterday as community organizers and the staff of the Chinese Planning Council awaited Silver’s arrival for the ribbon cutting ceremony at a new computer center (we’ll have more on the new center tomorrow).
Reporters from the New York Post, NY1 and other news organizations had little interest in the new facility, which was paid for by Time Warner Cable. They were there, instead, to grill Silver about the ongoing investigation of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment matter. Earlier in the day yesterday, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics decided it would investigate Silver’s decision to pay $103,000 from state coffers to two of Lopez’s accusers. During brief remarks to reporters before the ribbon cutting, Silver said, “We believe a full investigation will show that we acted in good faith, pursuant to law, in what we believed was the best interests of the women.”
Lotus Chau, a reporter for Chinese language newspaper Sing Tao, had a related question for the Speaker concerning another challenge – a request for an investigation filed by Wave Chan, a Republican running against Silver for his Lower Manhattan Assembly seat. Chan wants the U.S. Attorney to look into whether Silver broke any laws. A draft of Chan’s letter was provided to the Post. It read, in part, “I join my fellow citizens’ concern that Speaker Silver broke the law in covering up a criminal act by attempting to protect a member of the Assembly… The alleged contract entered into between the state Assembly and the victims of sexual harassment merit your investigation for criminal acts and I ask that you do so as soon as possible.” According to Chau, Silver brushed off the question.
Silver proceeded to cut ribbons outside and in a meeting room on the second floor of the Eldridge Street facility. He seemed to enjoy the traditional Chinese lion dance, and posed for pictures with Chinese Planning Council staff, community activists and Time Warner Cable executives.